How a Fables Cover Gets Made: Greg Ruth on Crafting Fables #135

A new era is beginning for the Farm as knights begin to arrive from every corner of countless worlds. In the old version of Camelot, the brief shining moment was destroyed by infidelity, infighting and the evil machinations of the king’s sister. If Rose Red is the king this time, does that mean Snow White is the one destined to bring it all crashing down around them?—See more at Vertigo Comics!

Greg Ruth is an artist and writer working in comics, children’s books, advertising, and is often contributor to’s fiction. Vertigo Comics commissioned him to illustrate the cover for Bill Willingham’s acclaimed Fables series. Below, he guides us through his process in creating this Camelot-themed cover.

This was the first of a series of sketches to try and get to the final image. I knew what the gist was but we hadn’t yet had a script to work from and so needed to cast a wide net.

Greg Ruth: Fables cover in progress.

I think this was my primary choice at this stage. Liked the compliments of the filthy bug swirled fellow and the Doris Day type pie moment… but an image for another book perhaps…

Greg Ruth: Fables cover in progress.

Knew this was our path when I whipped this up. All of these are blackwing graphite on paper.

Greg Ruth: Fables cover in progress.

A bit more heavy handed than the others, but it always helps to go too far to know where to stop.

Greg Ruth: Fables cover in progress.

After approval by Shelly, Bill, Mark et al., we went forward with this ink drawing. Getting this character exactly right was where it all mattered if this was going to work, so I did a rather large sumi drawing of him alone separate from the doorway to allow for maximum flexibility when the painting stage kicked in.

Greg Ruth: Fables cover in progress.

And so here we are at this moment where I begin dropping water color in and digitally bumping things into final focus, paint the floor mat and so on… This is always done super late into the night and can be the most fun bits depending on how well it’s going.

Greg Ruth: Fables cover in progress.

And here we are at the final! A combo of practical painting, ink drawing and digital cut-and-paste to bring it all homeward. Getting the light and sense of place was essential at this stage in order for the effect to work. I wanted to freeze a moment when you open the door to get your morning paper, but instead this is waiting for you. Hope we hit it right. Left ample room too for the title treatment. They do such a unique and stellar job of these throughout the series I was especially keen to make sure the designer had enough play to go nuts. Can’t wait to see what the final looks like.

Greg Ruth: Fables cover in progress.


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